Archbishop praises ‘multicultural and multireligious’ Scotland

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Papal Nuncio to Egypt, has praised Scotland for being a ‘multicultural and multireligious’ society.

Delivering Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament, the Archbishop spoke of the importance of interreligious dialogue “in order to walk together toward truth and to work together in projects of common concern.” He stressed the importance of continuing this work and not “resting on our laurels” and quoted Pope John Paul II who said: “Either we learn to walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others.”

The Archbishop also praised the efforts of individual initiatives which seek to build interreligious dialogue and asked God to sustain those efforts so that Scotland may be an example to the world.

The full text of the Archbishop’s address can be found, below.

You can also see a recorded version on Scottish Parliament TV by clicking this link.


Text of address:

Presiding Officer, members of the Scottish Parliament, I thank you for giving me the honour of addressing you this afternoon. As you may know, I belong to the Society of Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers. The society has long been established in Scotland, and has had and still has many distinguished Scottish members.

As a young boy, I started off my training to be a missionary by spending three months at St Boswell’s, in the beautiful Tweed valley. Our society was founded in Algeria and its first work was among Muslims, responding to a humanitarian need caused by an outbreak of cholera. It is in the field of interreligious dialogue, particularly Christian-Muslim relations, that I have worked as a missionary. Interreligious dialogue has been defined in an official Vatican document as meeting the followers of other religions “in order to walk together toward truth and to work together in projects of common concern”.

In other words, it is an on-going process. We can never say, “We’ve made it; we’re there. We can now rest on our laurels”. We have always to be ready to begin again, because tensions arise and conflicts break out, and these issues need to be overcome. Moreover, it means walking together, creating relationships and building up friendship, which cannot be done by one group alone. As Pope John Paul II said in Assisi, at the conclusion of the world day of prayer for peace, “Either we learn to walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others”.

That dialogue implies openness to others, appreciation of the values of the respective religions, awareness of the needs of those who are different from us and willingness to create the necessary trust in order to act together. It means having a wider vision than just one’s own religion or religious denomination and a readiness to work for the common good. In the multicultural and multireligious society that Scotland has become, there is a great need for this on-going dialogue and co-operation. I would like to take this opportunity of saluting and applauding all the initiatives that have been taken and the efforts that are being made. May the one God, who is that truth drawing us on, bless and sustain all those efforts, so that Scotland may continue to be an example to the world.